Yara Shahidi talks playing Tinkerbell and the importance of representation in fairy tales

Yara Shahidi talks playing Tinkerbell and the importance of representation in fairy tales

So for me, I love live music – it may sound so silly, but that’s the one thing for me, going to a concert past my bedtime when I know I have to be up early is a practice and being like, ‘I know this is gonna fill me up’. It’s all about trying to prioritise experiences.

Can you relate to the “not wanting to grow up” theme of the film?

Absolutely. I mean, 23 is definitely treating me well. But I think the reason it has is because I’ve kind of gone back to being like, ‘well, what made me happy as a kid. And how do I go back to that place?’ I think I definitely carried this idea of what adulthood looked like and how serious it had to be.

Having graduated, school has been my anchor for years. I always knew that the next year was defined by the school year. So to be in this phase of life where I’m like, I’ve graduated from school, my television show [Grown-ish] has just come to an end, all the things that have been such a consistent in my life, adulthood gets a little nerve wracking. I’m like: ‘what’s next?’ But I think going back to that kind of childhood centring of ‘okay, well, where can I find adventures’ has made it much more exciting.

Your roles, past and present, have political and social issues at core. Take Black-ish – which touches on race, sexuality, and police brutality and more and upcoming Extrapolations, which tackles climate change. Are these choices deliberate?

Yes and no. I think yes, in that it’s what I naturally gravitate towards. I think all of the stories that have impacted me have had some sort of message and meaning. But I think what also connects them all is that they’re really creatively strong. Because I think first and foremost, as an actor, the goal is to dip your toe into such a compelling story that whatever is being communicated, there’s a real impact.

Which is why I think Peter Pan and Wendy for me fits with Black-ish and Extrapolations because being able to play any character where you show any sort of range in humanity, I think, ultimately, you’re making some sort of statement. I think it starts with people first. I think that the people that I work with care about the worlds, so we end up making projects that care about the world.

And you also get to work with your mum, right? You guys set up a production company together so that you could tell your own stories.

Yes! We’re business partners, which is beautiful… She’s been my role model in so many ways, so it works. We’re so aligned on what we want to make in the world and to be able to do it together is special.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Peter Pan & Wendy is available to watch on Disney+ now.

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